Painting a picture of a beautiful yet flawed world
Since Sangatsu no Lion’s first episode, its primary focus has been shogi. Playing shogi, practicing shogi, choosing a rival to help you improve your shogi skills. However, in the fourth episode of the second season, Shaft decided to forgo the games and focus primarily on what they do best: painting a picture of a beautiful yet flawed world and making the audience care about the people who inhabit it.
Sangatsu no Lion has always had a distinctive art style, but this episode employs it to dramatic effect. Everything from the lighting in Hina’s flashbacks to the use of negative color scheme in Rei’s internal monologues is designed to maximise the emotional impact of the scene. Emotion is certainly not something this episode lacks, so there are plenty of chances to showcase the trademark pencil and watercolor aesthetics.
Episode four explored the idea of doing the right thing and living with the consequences of your actions. Hina’s bullying drives the plot this week, but there are also some significant callbacks to episodes from season one. Take, for instance, the scene where Hina runs from her home and is comforted by Rei at the waterfront. This is a direct reference to the scene in episode three, season one.
Not everything is the same, though. Rei has since learned how to express himself, and instead of merely viewing himself as an outsider, he becomes furious at Hina’s mistreatment. This response speaks to his newfound lust for life and shows that he now considers himself part of the family even if blood doesn’t connect them.
The problem is that Rei has been easily distracted in the preceding episodes. The audience has seen the level that higher ranks play at, and in terms of sheer shogi ability, Hina’s problems can be viewed as just another distraction from training. Interestingly, Rei doesn’t see it this way. Yes, he resolves to practice shogi more, but it could be that he’s beginning to find a healthy balance between the game and other aspects of his life.
The bullying plotline isn’t fully resolved by the end of the episode so it will be interesting to see if it becomes a recurring theme. Rei certainly isn’t finished with the bullies, but frankly, he has bigger problems. At the very least, Hina’s family agree that she did the right thing.
Sangatsu no Lion is at its best when it takes place away from the shogi hall. While this episode doesn’t feature any plot twists or clever strategy, it does deliver an impactful and frank look into Hina’s everyday life. It is beautifully animated, touching, and manages to show the thoughts and motivations of several different characters. At the end of the day, isn’t that all a show needs to be memorable?